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    The fight over the fight for California’s privacy future / ArsTechnica · 4 days ago - 09:25

The fight over the fight for California’s privacy future

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

When state Senator Bob Hertzberg learned that an ambitious privacy initiative had gotten enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in California, he knew he had to act quickly.

“My objective,” he says, “was to get the damn thing off the ballot.”

It was the spring of 2018. Facebook’s emerging Cambridge Analytica scandal had cast a harsh light on the tech giants’ data-gathering practices, spurring calls for more consumer privacy protections. The initiative was the brainchild of Alastair Mactaggart, a wealthy San Francisco real estate developer, who had the idea in the shower in 2015 and funded the effort out of pocket. Mactaggart enlisted his neighbor Rick Arney and Mary Stone Ross, a former CIA analyst and lawyer, to help craft the ballot measure. None had any background in data privacy or, for that matter, anything related to the tech industry.

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    Companies can track your phone’s movements to target ads / ArsTechnica · 7 days ago - 10:57

Companies can track your phone’s movements to target ads

Enlarge (credit: Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

Google and Apple have taken steps this year they say will help users shield themselves from hundreds of companies that compile profiles based on online behavior. Meanwhile, other companies are devising new ways to probe more deeply into other aspects of our lives.

In January, Google said it would phase out third-party cookies on its Chrome browser, making it harder for advertisers to track our browsing habits. Publishers and advertisers use cookies to compile our shopping, browsing, and search data into extensive user profiles. These profiles reflect our political interests, health, shopping behavior, race, gender, and more. Tellingly, Google will still collect data from its own search engine, plus sites like YouTube or Gmail.

Apple , meanwhile, says it will require apps in a forthcoming version of iOS to ask users before tracking them across services , though it delayed the effective date until next year after complaints from Facebook. A poll from June showed as many as 80 percent of respondents would not opt in to such tracking.

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    A bevy of new features makes iOS 14 the most secure mobile OS ever / ArsTechnica · Friday, 18 September - 11:48

Multiple smartphones on table.

Enlarge / From left to right: iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Eleven months ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook declared privacy a “ fundamental human right .” The affirmation came as the iPhones his customers carry in their pockets store ever more sensitive information and the company seeks to make privacy a key differentiator as it competes with Google and other rivals.

On Wednesday, the company sought to make good on its commitment with the release of iOS 14 . It introduces a bevy of privacy features designed to give iPhone users more control over their personal information. The protections are intended to rein in app developers, online providers, and advertisers who all too often push the limits of acceptable data collection, assuming they don’t fully step over the line.

I spent a little more than an hour testing some of the features. Here’s a brief description of each, how to use them, and some first-blush impressions of how some work.

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    Google faces $3.2B lawsuit over claims it violated children’s privacy / ArsTechnica · Monday, 14 September - 17:51

A sign featuring the YouTube logo, outside the YouTube Space studios in London on June 4, 2019.

Enlarge / A sign featuring the YouTube logo, outside the YouTube Space studios in London on June 4, 2019. (credit: Olly Curtis | Future | Getty Images )

A new lawsuit filed in a United Kingdom court alleges that YouTube knowingly violated children's privacy laws in that country and seeks damages in excess of £2.5 billion (about $3.2 billion).

A tech researcher named Duncan McCann filed the lawsuit in the UK's High Court and is serving as representative claimant in the case—a similar, though not identical, process to a US class-action suit. Foxglove, a UK tech advocacy group, is backing the claim , it said today.

"YouTube, and its parent company Google, are ignoring laws designed to protect children," Foxglove wrote in a press release. "They know full well that millions of children watch YouTube. They’re making money from unlawfully harvesting data about these young children as they watch YouTube videos—and then running highly targeted adverts, designed to influence vulnerable young minds."

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    Portland adopts strictest facial recognition ban in nation to date / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 10 September - 14:32

A helpful neon sign in Portland, Ore.

Enlarge / A helpful neon sign in Portland, Ore. (credit: Seth K. Hughes | Getty Images )

City leaders in Portland, Ore. yesterday adopted the most sweeping ban on facial recognition technology passed anywhere in the United States so far.

The Portland City Council voted on two ordinances related to facial recognition: one prohibiting use by public entities, including the police, and the other limiting its use by private entities. Both measures passed unanimously, according to local NPR and PBS affiliate Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The first ordinance ( PDF ) bans the "acquisition and use" of facial recognition technologies by any bureau of the city of Portland. The second ( PDF ) prohibits private entities from using facial recognition technologies "in places of public accommodation " in the city.

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    Facebook complains, Apple responds: iOS 14’s big privacy change gets postponed / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 3 September - 20:13 · 1 minute

The iPhone 8, the iPhone XS, the iPhone XR, and the iPhone XS Max.

Enlarge / From left to right: the iPhone 8, the iPhone XS, the iPhone XR, and the iPhone XS Max. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple has postponed full enforcement of a feature of its upcoming iOS 14 software for iPhones that would require app developers to request users' permission to track them across apps for advertising purposes. This announcement comes in the wake of a public complaint from Facebook that the privacy policy could negatively impact the ad market in Apple's ecosystem.

The feature, announced at Apple's annual developer conference in June, would require app developers to notify a user of an app's intent to track the user's IDFA (ID for Advertisers). IDFA is used to track the user's behavior across multiple apps and deliver targeted ads based on that behavior. The change would also require the user to opt in to that tracking.

Apple now says that, while developers will be able to implement this notification and request for permission, doing so will no longer be mandatory when iOS 14 launches sometime in the next couple of months. However, Apple was careful to clarify that it still intends to establish the requirement in the future, and that this is only a delay "to give developers time to make necessary changes."

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    Facebook halts Oculus Quest sales in Germany amid privacy concerns / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 3 September - 18:53

Facebook halts Oculus Quest sales in Germany amid privacy concerns

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Facebook)

Facebook subsidiary Oculus says it has "temporarily paused" sales of Oculus Quest headsets to customers in Germany. Reports suggest the move is in response to concerns from German regulators about the recently announced requirement that all Oculus users will need to use a Facebook account by 2023 to log in to the device.

"We have temporarily paused selling Oculus devices to consumers in Germany," Facebook writes in a brief message on the Oculus support site . "We will continue supporting users who already own an Oculus device and we're looking forward to resuming sales in Germany soon."

Facebook declined an opportunity to provide additional comment to Ars Technica. But in a statement to German News site Heise Online ( machine translation ), the company said the move was due to "outstanding talks with German supervisory authorities... We were not obliged to take this measure, but proactively interrupted the sale."

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    Feds can’t ask Google for every phone in a 100-meter radius, court says / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 2 September - 21:59

Stock photo of people on urban sidewalk walking and looking at smartphones.

Enlarge (credit: Page Light Studios )

Federal courts in the Chicago area have three times rejected government applications for warrants to force Google to produce a list of smartphones near two particular commercial establishments during one of three 45-minute intervals. The most recent ruling was handed down last week and was recently made public .

The decisions are significant because Google has reported massive growth in law enforcement use of such "geofence" searches. Google says there was a 1,500-percent increase between 2017 and 2018 and a further 600-percent jump from 2018 to 2019. That's a hundredfold increase in two years. Google received 180 geofence search requests a week during 2019, according to CNet.

Google is a popular target for this kind of request because almost everyone uses Google products in one way or another. Google's Android controls a majority of the smartphone market, and even most users who run iPhones use apps like Google Maps and Gmail. Moreover, Google frequently has GPS data that places a user's phone to within a few meters—much more accurate than the tower location data law enforcement can get from wireless providers.

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